The spring of Melinda Stone

How to make a home sweet homestead

Melinda Stone teaches at the University of San Francisco, and her recent A Trip Down Market Street 1905/2005 movie project unearthed a new view of the city through an attentive look at its milestones. But Stone lives in Humboldt County, at StoneLake Farm (, a 21-acre homestead that counts waterfalls, angora goats, and an Octagon home among its features. Add this together and you realize that few people are as equipped as Stone to creatively bridge urban and rural experiences and sensibilities. A few years ago her project The California Tour brought small-scale films, bingo, and sing-alongs to abandoned drive-in theaters throughout the state. Now, with How to Homestead (, Stone's making movies that share homesteading wisdom with rural and city folk.

SFBG You recently had a "Home Sweet Homestead" show at Artists' Television Access. What was the response like?

MELINDA STONE Other Cinema said it was one of their best shows of the last six months. It was a packed house and an enthusiastic crowd. I didn't know the majority of people, which was exciting. It was clear that homesteading is alive and kicking. For me, an event like that is partly about getting together and having a good time. The homesteaders of old danced and drank moonshine. I'm also aiming for community building without the loss of aesthetics — it's important to showcase beauty without being dogmatic.

SFBG Tell me about StoneLake Farm. I'm wondering about the internships there, and also about the Octagon as a place to write or work on art.

MS My husband and I will have had the farm for three years this fall. From the beginning, we thought it would be great [for hosting interns and artists] since it had a couple extra farms, and the Octagon has such an expansive view. WWOOF, or Willing Workers on Organic Farms, is a great resource for anyone interested in finding out about organic farming and off-the-grid living. It lists farms and permaculture sites that host interns. We're listed, and on a monthly basis we get around 200 people, some from as far away as Sweden, inquiring about internships.

SFBG How and when did How to Homestead come about?

MS The people we purchased our farm from left their magazines and all their how-to materials, such as issues of Mother Earth News from the early '70s. That triggered me to think about ways to share info today. For me, it's through making movies. I've always been fascinated by the how-to genre. There's room for a beautiful how-to piece. One caveat at [our] farm is, "I'll teach you how to do this, if you let me video you doing it." People won't learn every single detail of exactly how to do things from our videos, but they can see it isn't brain science.

SFBG The How to Homestead Web site currently features a video called Making Chicken Dinner. What other video projects will be part of the site?

MS We have five videos in the pipeline. One fun thing about the project is that it's the first time I've done a full-on collaboration with my students, who are Web designers, video makers, and researchers. They've created a Facebook account and posted homestead videos to YouTube.

My students just made one video called Fungus Among Us, about mushroom foraging. I have one called Mountain Man and the Swedish Sisters. A friend said the other night that (with that title) it's like a porn that doesn't deliver.

SFBG You're taking part in the Biodiesel Film Festival on April 30. What can people expect there?

MS We're starting the show by leading the crowd in a sing-along that Sam Sharkey and I wrote called "Everyone Needs a Hoe." Sam dubbed it "the Natural Anthem," and I believe we do need a new National Anthem.

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